Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sirach 24 in the RSV-2CE

So I was reading through Sirach 24 in the RSV-2CE recently and noticed that there are quite a few additions to it, in comparison with the original RSV-CE. As we have noted in some previous posts, the RSV-2CE does choose to side with the Douay-Rheims in a number of instances, against the RSV-CE. Whether that is a good or bad thing is not so much my concern, but rather it is frustrating that the RSV-2CE is lacking important textual notes indicating why a particular verse has been added (or removed). Sirach 24, in many ways, is a perfect example. Here are a few:

Sirach 24:1
Wisdom will praise herself, and will glory in the midst of her people. (RSV-CE)

Wisdom will praise herself and is honored by God, and will glory in the midst of her people. (RSV-2CE)

Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honoured in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people. (DR)

Sirach 24:2
In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth, and in the presence of his host she will glory. (RSV-CE)

In the assembly of the Most High she will open her mouth, and in the presence of his host she will glory. In the midst of her people she is exalted; in holy fulness she is admired. In the multitude of the chosen she fins praise, and among the blessed she is blessed. (RSV-2CE)

And shall open her mouth in the churches of the most High, and shall glorify herself in the sight of his power, And in the midst of her own people she shall be exalted, and shall be admired in the holy assembly. And in the multitude of the elect she shall have praise, and among the blessed she shall be blessed. (DR v. 2-4)

Sirach 24:3
I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. (RSV-CE)

I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures. I ordained that an unfailing light should arise in the heavens, and covered the earth like a mist. (RSV-2CE)

I came out of the mouth of the most High, the firstborn before all creatures:
I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth.
(DR v. 5-6)

Sirach 24:12
I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance. (RSV-CE)

I took root in an honored people, in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance, and my abode was in the full assembly of the saints. (RSV-2CE)

And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of my God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints. (DR 16)

Putting textual criticism issues aside for the moment, why are there no textual notes in the RSV-2CE to indicate these changes? Again, remember, there isn't even a preface to the RSV-2CE which states their philosophy for the 2nd Edition. The one thing that is very clear to me, the more I read the RSV-2CE, is that not only was the editing selective and geared toward lining it up with the Douay-Rheims, but that the description of the revision given by Ignatius as "minor revisions to some of the archaic language used in the first edition" is not telling the whole story. It is more extensive than that, and the only tool we have to seeing the changes does not come from Ignatius Press, but through the RSV Concordance offered by Emmaus Road.


Theophrastus said...

Good catch. You are absolutely right -- it is inexcusable to have such extensive changes with no note or explanation.

As a sidenote, the textual issue is the varied witnesses to Sirach. There are at least six major witnesses

HTI -- the Hebrew original (partially found at Cairo Genizah)

HTII -- the expanded Hebrew text (partially found at Cairo Genizah)

GI -- the grandson's translation of HTI

GII -- the expanded Greek text based on HTII

Old Latin -- based on GII, but with more additions

Syraic -- based on HTI, but with additions from the Old Latin and GII

Since Jerome never translated Sirach, the Old Latin version became adopted into the Vulgate.

Here is what Alexander A. Di Lella OFM says in his Anchor Bible Commentary about this Latin version:

"Old Latin’s exemplar apparently contained many additions of the GII type. Smend (pp. ic–cxiii) lists 36 places in which Old Latin supports the addition of a bicolon or more in the GII witnesses, and gives the Old Latin of 75 more bicola that are found only in Old Latin.... The Old Latin, which was eventually incorporated into the Vulgate because St. Jerome did not make a fresh translation of the book, was made from a GII text tradition, probably in the second century. This early Latin version lacked the grandson’s Prologue as well as the Praise of the Ancestors (chaps. 44–50); the latter was unknown to the Latin Fathers prior to Isidore of Seville (d. 636). This Latin text did contain, however, chap. 51 and also an intrusive chap. 52, the Prayer of Solomon (=2 Chr 6:13–22). In the fifth or sixth century, the Old Latin of Sirach began appearing in MSS of the Vulgate after it had first undergone many alterations by scribes and editors who also added the Prologue and chap. 44–50. As a result of this complicated history, the Old Latin of Sirach has more doublets, variants, glosses, and interpolations than any other book of the Latin Bible. It is, nevertheless, of great importance for the textual criticism of the expanded text of Sirach." (emphasis added)

From a literary text standpoint, I think that the HTI/GI text is more elegant, and thus I would say here that the RSV-CE is considerably more elegant than the RSV-2CE (as well as almost certainly being more true to the original Greek text written by Sirach's grandson)

Timothy said...

The quote you just gave from the Anchor Bible is very helpful and again shows the need for textual notes. I wonder how Hahn and Mitch will handle this in the ICSB Sirach volume?

I must say that as I continue to observe these issue with the RSV-2CE, the more I am likely to stick with the original RSV-CE.

Anonymous said...

I think this kind of info is really only important to serious scholars like yourselves. The regular Catholic really doesn't care about such textual notes.. all we want is a good and inspirational version of the Bible that doesn't strive to throw out Catholic tradition (like the NJB and NABRE).


Dan said...

Good detective work. I think it's important that publishers be transparent about things like this.

Theophrastus said...

After looking into a little more, it appears to me that what happened in Sirach 24 was that the RSV-2CE decided to follow Nova Vulgata. See verses 1-16 from NV below (= verses 1-12 in RSV.)

Since Sirach 24:1-12 is in the lectionary (Year A, second Sunday after Christmas), it would presumably fall under paragraph 37 of Liturgiam Authenticam:

If the biblical translation from which the Lectionary is composed exhibits readings that differ from those set forth in the Latin liturgical text, it should be borne in mind that the Nova Vulgata Editio is the point of reference as regards the delineation of the canonical text. Thus, in the translation of the deuterocanonical books and wherever else there may exist varying manuscript traditions, the liturgical translation must be prepared in accordance with the same manuscript tradition that the Nova Vulgata has followed. If a previously prepared translation reflects a choice that departs from that which is found in the Nova Vulgata Editio as regards the underlying textual tradition, the order of verses, or similar factors, the discrepancy needs to be remedied in the preparation of any Lectionary so that conformity with the Latin liturgical text may be maintained. In preparing new translations, it would be helpful, though not obligatory, that the numbering of the verses also follow that of the same text as closely as possible. (emphasis added)

So, it appears here that the RSV-2CE editors were following LA, as they claim.

However, I still think that a textual note would have been useful.

NV Ecclesiasticus 24:1-16 (= RSV Sirach 24:1-12)

1 Laus sapientiae.
Sapientia laudabit animam suam et in Deo honorabitur
et in medio populi sui gloriabitur
2 et in ecclesia Altissimi aperiet os suum
et in conspectu virtutis illius gloriabitur
3 et in medio populi sui exaltabitur
et in plenitudine sancta admirabitur
4 et in multitudine electorum habebit laudem
et inter benedictos benedicetur dicens:
5 “ Ego ex ore Altissimi prodivi,
primogenita ante omnem creaturam.
6 Ego feci in caelis, ut oriretur lumen indeficiens,
et sicut nebula texi omnem terram.
7 Ego in altissimis habitavi,
et thronus meus in columna nubis.
8 Gyrum caeli circuivi sola
et in profundum abyssi ambulavi,
9 in fluctibus maris et in omni terra steti
10 et in omni populo et in omni gente primatum habui
11 et omnium excellentium et humilium corda virtute calcavi.
In his omnibus requiem quaesivi:
cuius in hereditate morabor?
12 Tunc praecepit et dixit mihi Creator omnium,
et, qui creavit me, quietem dedit tabernaculo meo
13 et dixit mihi: “In Iacob inhabita et in Israel hereditare
et in electis meis mitte radices”.
14 Ab initio ante saecula creata sum
et usque ad futurum saeculum non desinam.
15 Et in tabernaculo sancto coram ipso ministravi,
et sic in Sion firmata sum
et in civitate similiter dilecta requievi,
et in Ierusalem potestas mea.
16 Et radicavi in populo honorificato
et in parte Domini, in hereditate illius,
et in plenitudine sanctorum detentio mea.

Timothy said...

Again, the key would be the inclusion of the much needed textual note. Or how about in an introduction including a brief explanation as to how LA is implemented in this revision, particularly for those who might not have access to the Vatican document. It just seems to me that a fair amount of confusion could be avoided if Ignatius would be just a little more transparent about the way this revision was executed.

rolf said...

Thanks for that follow up Theophrastus! It makes sense since the RSV-CE was presented to the Vatican in the process to have it approved for use in the Lectionary (which it later was). When Fr. Fessio had responded to this blog years ago, he had said that the Vatican (Congregation of Divine Worship)had required changes to the translation (removing archaic language and other changes which Ignatius Press made). The result of these changes is the RSV-2CE Lectionary and Bible translation. This appears (imo) to be one of those changes required by the Vatican.

Michael Demers said...

I wonder if Ignatius Press has a hidden agenda with the RSV-2CE. Problems are cropping up already with their lack of honesty and transparency. I predict that the RSV-2CE will become even more marginalized as time goes on.

Theophrastus said...

I agree completely. My comment above was intended as an explanation, not a defense.

(I know a little about Bible translation, but it still took me a while to realize why Ignatius was doing this -- I could imagine that most readers might not be able to figure it out.)

Michael Demers said...

Maybe Ignatius Press should rename RSV-2CE as the RSV-LA (Liturgiam Authenticam).

Timothy said...

On a related note, the NABRE Sirach follows the RSV-CE. Would this be due to the fact that it was translated prior to Liturgiam Authenticam?

Theophrastus said...

Timothy --

The NABRE does not need to follow Nova Vulgata -- the NABRE is not intended for liturgical use.

I bet the NAB lectionary does follow Nova Vulgata, though. (I do not own a copy of the lectionary, so I cannot quickly check.)

One issue is that most Biblical scholars consider the Nova Vulgata to be a poor translation. It has quite a few problems, and I must say that the Nova Vulgata deuterocanonicals have been particularly criticized by Catholic biblical scholars.

To make an edition of the NAB that could also be used for liturgy, something needs to give:


(a) the Vatican would need to prepare a new revision of the Nova Vulgata; or

(b) the Vatican would need to revise Paragraph 37 of Liturgiam Authenticam; or

(c) the CBA would need to agree to accept an inferior and uneven text critical basis for the deuterocanonicals.

It is hard for me imagining any of these three things happening soon, which is why I believe it is unlikely we will see a NAB that matches the lectionary anytime soon.

Michael Demers said...

Wow, you mean the Vatican would consider it desirable or ideal that the lectionary be translated from the Nova Vulgata? Whoo, boy!

Theophrastus said...

Michael: To be precise, the Vatican requires that the lectionary use the same textual basis as the Nova Vulgata. This is a real issue for the Deuterocanonicals: we have not one Septuagint but many Septuagints -- and they disagree with each other to a high degree.

The translation is still from the Greek, but the Nova Vulgata specifies, for each verse, which Greek source text is used as the source text.

However, many Catholic biblical scholars believe that the Nova Vulgata did a poor job on the Deuterocanonicals.

Francesco said...


I thought the difference had something to do with the NV... and I agree that it should get a note, if only to show how the textual basis has changed.

According to a website I found the current lectionary follows the NV for the 2nd Sunday after Christmas:

"USL70 used NAB; USL98 uses Neo-Vulgate partially different wordings" (emphasis in source)

Unfortunately you'll never hear it in the US because they've moved the celebration of Epiphany to that day.

Theophrastus said...

Incidentally, I was recommending the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible - New Testament to someone today, and I looked on Amazon, and

(1) The Kindle version appears to have been pulled. It now appears to be available only directly form Ignatius and has a rather elaborate procedure for transfer to the Kindle.

(2) The leather version is still available on sale, but one needs to search by ISBN to find it -- it is not linked from a search by title.

(3) However the hardcover (which Amazon now claims is "bonded leather" even though it has the hardcover ISBN) and the paperback are now full price.

It almost seems as if Amazon and Ignatius were in some sort of argument over this. Unfortunate!

Timothy said...


That is interesting. I would be tempted to email Ignatius, but often my inquiries with them remain unanswered. Hmmm....